Sunday, August 26, 2012

Impact Christian Church

Today we worshiped at Impact Christian Church, 965 Thorn Run Road, Moon Township, PA 15108, 412.264.9392, www.impactchristian.com, Steve Hammer, Lead Pastor.


Scripture – Romans 12:1 (NCV)
So brothers and sisters, since God has shown us great mercy, I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Your offering must be only for God and pleasing to him, which is the spiritual way for you to worship.

 
Bob’s thoughts:

We were welcomed as we entered and then by a number of others as well. We were then given a ticket for a free coffee and invited to bring it with us to worship.

The sanctuary is an arc with an ascending ceiling amplifying the focus, wood paneling on the ceiling matching the rear chancel wall. There is a large wooden cross to one side and the pews are comfortably padded.

The stage was decorated with auto parts which will relate to the series, this first being on worship. Today’s message related the tachometer to whether we as Christians are operating in the red zone…do we give our all for Christ? God doesn’t want meaningless ritual. He is looking for His followers to be completely committed, like the Marines – full force with no excuses...all we should be for an audience of One. Another good point – to carry your cross with you in case you need to be nailed to it.

The message developed well with supporting Scripture references and brought to good conclusion. I noticed a number of members taking notes and paying close attention.

Communion was served silently with both elements on the tray.

I noticed some good mission activities, including building a home for a needy family, and I enjoyed a conversation with a gracious woman at the welcome desk.

 
Jan’s thoughts:

The bright-colored signs caught my eye as I drove past this church on a recent detour to work. There was plenty of choice parking available when we arrived, but it filled quickly.

We were greeted warmly by a number of people, some of whom engaged us in conversation. As first-time guests we were given cards entitling us to a free coffee in the café area and then invited to take our coffee with us into the sanctuary.

The directional signage was helpful, and the rest room signs indicated that both had changing tables…funny how I now look for these things. The ladies room was attractively decorated, including a comfortable bench.

Mission seems to be high on the list of priorities here: someone put some time into creating a billboard detailing the various mission involvements and a number of missions were pointed out in the bulletin.

“Everything We Do Is Driven By You!” was the first message in the series “Redline Worship.” The title is a former Ford auto slogan but the “you” refers to Christ, and the redline mentioned is the indicator on the tachometer that a vehicle engine is running extremely fast. Once all these details were clear, the hubcaps on the rear wall of the chancel made a lot more sense.

The message was an encouragement to worship constantly, not just on Sunday, to surrender completely to Christ, give Him our full attention all the time with our whole hearts. The pastor spoke with passion, especially when he stated that when he meets Christ he does not want to hear, “You did okay.” He wants to be on fire and sold out for Christ, using his time here to bring glory to God. He encouraged the congregation to “refuse to settle for a puny little relationship with Jesus.”

I’ve not heard it put quite that way before, but he definitely had my attention. I can’t help but ask myself if I’ve been settling for a puny little relationship.

During Communion, my eye caught the phrase displayed on the screen: Please partake of the emblems as they are passed.

 
Our prayer for this church:
We pray, Lord, that you will awaken the Christian spirit of this church, that they will step out for You full force, no excuses. May they know the joy in serving You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Northgate Church

Today we worshiped at Northgate Church, 238 West View Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15229, 412.931.6016, www.northgatechurch.com, Jesse Boggs, Senior Pastor.


Scripture –
Matthew 16:13 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Matthew 16:15 – “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Luke 6:46-49 – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”


Bob’s thoughts:

We left early for church and got there just in time…men don’t ask directions.

We were greeted at the door and given a visitor flyer, and when we requested direction to the rest rooms we were led there. There did seem to be signage, but nothing directional from the narthex.

We have visited a church with the same architecture but I can’t remember where: high pointed ceiling covered in knotty pine and triangular el’s on either side. I was disappointed not to see a cross till the screen was raised at the end of the service to reveal a large cross on the wall behind it. There were few seats left when the service started. We were told the pastor was away so it seemed unusual for a packed sanctuary.

A number of different lay people offered prayers throughout the service and seemed comfortable doing so.

The message was delivered by a heart surgeon who provided a whole sheet of Scripture references pointing to an affirmation of Christ. A considerable echo made him hard to understand, but the sermon was shown on slides.

A highlight: truth is not subjective, you can’t create your own; we are called to be enslaved to Christ; and the conclusion if you are saved, lived like you mean it.

I have a neighbor for whom I have felt called to lay hands on for healing prayer, but I have a sense he is not a believer from his lack of response to some of my Christ talk. This is the third week in a row where the sermon has called us to not just talk the talk but to walk the walk. I am slow, but now know how God wants me to offer Christ Jesus’ healing of heart and soul.


Jan’s thoughts:

Today we were feeling our age so we were especially grateful for the “Visitor” parking.

Upon our first step inside we were offered a bulletin, and upon our second step we were asked if we were visitors. Since the service was just beginning when we arrived, we hoped to find the restrooms quickly and get into the sanctuary, but we encountered a visitor greeter who took his job very seriously.

We entered the sanctuary during the announcements, and then witnessed a moment of appreciation and sending for the first youth pastor of this church and his wife as they prepared to leave for mission work in Spain.

The large sanctuary was filled almost to capacity. The areas of the campus that we saw were meticulously decorated and cared for.

The praise band consisted of drums, a piano, three guitars, and one male singer and one female singer, and their sound was unexpectedly perfect together.

The pastor is on vacation, and the guest preacher was Dr. Cherian John, a cardiologist in the tri-state area. His message (to be concluded next week) was entitled “Who Do You Say That I Am?” and was full of many more Scripture references and much, much more information than I could hope to recount.

A couple of the many “bottom line” ideas were that the truth is true even if you choose not to believe it, if you are saved then you should live like you mean it, and that the fine print includes the assurance that believers will encounter persecution. The message was deep, Scripture was constant, and history was strongly emphasized.

Next week’s message will compare Christian faith with the beliefs of other religions and, based on this message, I expect it will be educational.


Our prayer for this church:
Lord, we pray this church hears Your call to walk and talk for You. May they take Your witness to all they meet, encouraging others to bring their questions and find that You are the answer. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Victory Family Church

Today we worshiped at Victory Family Church, 21150 Route 19, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066, 724.453.6200, www.lifeatvictory.com, John and Michelle Nuzzo, Senior Pastors.

Scripture – Galatians 5:16-23
So I say, live by the Sprit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


Bob’s thoughts:

Today we got to visit a church that has been on our list for a while. We were greeted by people who held the door open for us but we were ignored otherwise, even during the obligatory greeting.

I had my earplugs with me so was be to stay for the music. I was seated through most of the service with a granddaughter so I don’t know how many were on stage but it did seem like smoke effects with the dust particles caught in the spotlight beams. I was disappointed not to find a cross. Our large party was too late to claim seats together but the ushers/security people tried to accommodate us.

There is an impressive nursery/child care area that included a room for special needs children.

At first the message seemed to be a monologue on raising children, but it turned out to segue to the sermon that, for me, came down to the promise that we can be used for God. We all lament not being good enough or ready to evangelize, but what if our efforts that we judge as being feeble turn out to be the only chance for someone to claim Christ?

There was an altar call for any who wished to accept Christ and a number of people raised their hands.

After the service I stopped at the information desk and was given a floor plan that would have been nice to have when we first stopped there. There is a large floor plan on the wall, but it is behind a sales desk.


Jan’s thoughts:

If we thought the building was large last week, this one was huge. We only got to tour a small part of it, but we were given a brochure with a color-coded floor plan, and we would not have had time to tour the entire campus. I looked around the gift shop, and we walked the hallway with all the children’s rooms. They were probably the most imaginative, varied, colorful, nicely appointed rooms for children I’ve seen anywhere. The sign for one room indicated it was specifically for those with special needs.

A few people smiled at us and one person spoke with our son, but otherwise we were on our own. During the service when the congregation was instructed to greet someone nearby, we were not approached.

I’m usually quite alright without a bulletin, but I do wish I knew the name of one of the songs that opened worship. I loved the words and would appreciate being able to find it on iTunes. Displaying the words on the screens was helpful. The music had plenty of volume and sounded professional.

The guest preacher was an evangelist named David Faulk. I missed hearing exactly who he is, but I do know he is on the younger side, passionate, and had a couple of amazing life stories to tell…and I was spellbound on the edge of my seat. His message was called “Walking God’s Pathway,” and he made some great points.

He asked if everyone went to their significant other and offered to spend 1 hour and 15 minutes with them per week, would that be acceptable to maintain the relationship? He then asked what makes us think that it’s enough to sustain our relationship with God.

I have never heard that the Bible, in addition to being the bestselling book of all time, is also the most shoplifted book. Rather ironic, but believable…many are seeking.

How odd that for the second week in a row in distinctly different churches in separate states we heard the quote from The Matrix about the difference between knowing and doing.

His stories were illustrations from his and his father’s lives about the seeds that are planted, about how “the pursuit of happiness without holiness leads to emptiness,” and “letting God write your story.” He was open and vulnerable, which is probably why his stories will stay with me. They also give me hope that God does indeed have a plan and a purpose, for even my life. Hallelujah!


Our prayer for this church:
Dear Father, we pray this church continues to reach out to those who don’t know yet that they need Christ. We ask that You nourish this church and help them continue to grow. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Vienna Presbyterian Church

Last Sunday we worshiped at Vienna Presbyterian Church, 124 Park Street, NE, Vienna, VA 22180, 703.938.9050, www.viennapres.org, Rev. Dr. Peter G. James, Senior Pastor.

A note from us:
God’s gracious presence has certainly been felt, but the craziness this week has ranged from our daughter’s procedure in Virginia on Monday to my modified work hours due to our office move, and family living with us temporarily. We hope to be back to our prompt publishing schedule tomorrow.


Scripture – Colossians 3:1-14:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Bob’s thoughts:

This is a larger complex and we only saw a little of it, but it is very impressive. The sanctuary is colorful only in different shades of white. I made note that the only cross I could find was on the parament of the pulpit, then realized that from where we were sitting the balcony projected out far enough that I couldn’t see the huge wooden cross suspended from the ceiling.

We were greeted and welcomed and when two of the pastors heard that the reason we were in the area was our daughter’s health issue, they both were quick to offer prayers for her.

I enjoyed the praise singers: I could hear and understand them and they harmonized well.

I thought it might be nice if they could project a video of the children’s sermon on the screen so everyone could see them.

The pastor had a good speaking voice and developed his sermon well. The message was from a sermon series “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” Some highlights: put sin to death or it will kill you. Figure out what is killing your soul and kill it. When we are intentional in breaking from these sinful ways, then be intentional in Christ.

I was reminded of something from Max Lucado where he talks of DTP – Disruptive Thought Patterns. He referred to them as viruses: guilt, shame, bitterness, greed, etc., of which we need to purge ourselves.

We cannot sit placidly just enjoying Christ. We need to walk the walk.

I was impressed with the large prayer list for Military and Civilians Serving in Harm’s Way.

It was so refreshing to hear the elements offered verbally when served Communion.

It was good to reconnect with a former Pittsburgh pastor, Stan Ott, who is a teaching pastor there.


Jan’s thoughts:

We were in Virginia last weekend to support our daughter as she faced a health issue. I am glad to report that her procedure went perfectly and she is fine. Since we were there we worshiped at this church which, even at a distance, has meant a great deal to me.

More than a year ago I read an article online about the faithful way this church handled the disturbing issue of sexual abuse. As an abuse survivor, their faithfulness gave me hope and, I believe, sets an example for any institution that is preyed upon like this. Ever since, I have wanted to visit to meet these people who cared enough to find the courage to do the right thing.

The facility is beautiful, exquisitely decorated and maintained. With three services, I was surprised to be asked if we were visitors. There was visitor parking and a welcome center. Unfortunately we did not have time to check out the book store.

At different times in our visit we spoke with the two pastors present, and each immediately offered prayer for our daughter.

The bulletin consists of two 11x17 sheets folded and stapled, a full page of categorized prayer requests, announcements, and innumerable spiritual growth and service opportunities. I was impressed by the gracious wording in some of the comments and announcements.

The signage was both helpful and necessary.

The Children’s Message was truly aimed at the children, who were permitted to participate, and this adult enjoyed it as well.

The offertory music was new to me, so I appreciated seeing the words on the screen.

The sermon, “Putting on Christ,” was part of a series entitled and based on the book “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” by John Ortberg. He began with a terrific story about a boy who holds a record – he wore a Brett Favre jersey every single day for 1,981 consecutive days between 2003 and 2008.

He went on to talk about “wearing Christ” and killing sin in our lives, quoting the puritan John Owen, that you “had better be killing sin or it will be killing you.” He confirmed the truth of the old story that says the side of us we feed is the side that wins. His advice is to be intentional in working to order every facet of our life after Christ, stay in the Word, and pray. We know what we need to do, but there’s a difference between knowing and doing.

I could not help but be reminded of the quote from General Norman Schwarzkopf: “The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” For me, I have found the hard part is believing it and then acting on that belief. I can read and pray, but unless I allow God’s Word to sink into my heart and affect my actions, I’m still living in the sin of unbelief.

Following worship we were truly blessed by an opportunity to catch up with one of the pastors here whom we had known from Pittsburgh Presbytery.


Our prayer for this church:
Father, We pray that this congregation truly does take up the cause and fight to put sin to death. We pray for Your strength and guidance. Please envelope them in Your Spirit and be glorified in their trials. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.